MARIE CURIE IRISH CUP FINAL
BALLYMENA UTD 1 GLENAVON 2
TEN-MAN Glenavon celebrated Irish Cup glory with a 2-1 victory over nine-man Ballymena United at Windsor Park.
Substitute Mark Patton was the hero, coming off the bench to score a 76th-minute winner for the Lurgan Blues.
Kyle Neill had given Glenavon a first-half lead with a superb free-kick, only for Ballymena captain Allan Jenkins to level matters in the 71st minute.
Referee Raymond Crangle awarded no less than three straight red cards - Glenavon defender Gareth McKeown and Ballymena midfielder Gary Thompson were both sent off in the first half, while United midfielder Tony Kane was dismissed in second half injury time for a crude challenge on Gary Hamilton.
It mattered little to player/manager Hamilton, who was soon celebrating the club’s first Irish Cup success in 17 years.
An eventful opening half saw both teams reduced to 10 men and Glenavon claim the lead.
McKeown was sent for an early bath in the 28th minute following an off-the-ball incident with Ballymena goalkeeper Aaron Shanahan.
Despite being down to 10 men, Glenavon forged ahead in the 35th minute with a thunderbolt from Neill.
Davy Munster’s trip on Guy Bates 30 yards from goal appeared to present few problems for the Ballymena defence.
But Neill’s rasping free-kick took a slight deflection as it powered past Shanahan and into the corner of the net.
Ballymena were reduced to 10 men in the 40th minute with referee Crangle presenting a straight red to Thompson for a clumsy challenge on Shane McCabe.
The Sky Blues levelled the game in the 71st minute with skipper Jenkins on target.
It came from Alan Teggart’s corner, and when Glenavon keeper James McGrath lost the flight of the delivery, the ball fell to Jenkins who bundled it home from five yards.
Ballymena were on level terms for only five minutes, with Patton restoring Glenavon’s lead with another sublime finish in the 76th minute.
The substitute picked up possession 30 yards from goal, skipped past Kane who appeared to slip before guiding a low effort past Shanahan and into the bottom corner.
Ballymena sought a late reprieve, and Cushley almost provided some drama in the 88th minute.
Davy Munster’s long ball was flicked through by Alan Teggart, and Cushley beat James Singleton to the ball but was denied by the onrushing McGrath, the keeper blocking Cushley’s stretching effort.
Kane was shown a straight red car deep into injury time for a reckless challenge on Hamilton on the touchline.
BALLYMENA: Shanahan, Ervin (Taggart 28), Munster (Stewart 82), Taylor, McBride, Kane, Thompson, Jenkins, Cushley, Boyce (Davidson 65), Teggart.
Subs not used: Surgenor, Gawley.
GLENAVON: McGrath, Neill (Patton 67), Lindsay, Bates (Hamilton 90), McGrory, Marshall, McKeown, McCabe, Martyn, Singleton, Mulvenna (Murphy 79).
Subs not used: Kilmartin, Rainey.
Referee: Raymond Crangle (Belfast)